Minnesota incoming freshmen Casey Mittelstadt and Nate Knoepke will try to match sophomore defenseman Ryan Lindgren's accomplishment: Making an American U-20 World Juniors team.
All three will take their first step next month. The Gopher trio join 39 other players named Tuesday to the United States' 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase. Among the under-20 group are 25 forwards, 13 defensemen and 4 goalies.
The event, formerly known as the National Junior Evaluation Camp, takes July 29-August 5th in Plymouth, Michigan and brings in three other top countries in Canada (2017 silver medalist), Finland (2016 gold medalist) and Sweden (fourth place each of the past three tournaments). Each of the countries will scrimmage against one another. Besides getting experience, coaches have an opportunity to decide who to take for December camps and eventually the 2018 WJC.
In the case of Team USA, players initially will be split into two teams before cuts are made in camp.
One of only two returning defensemen from an American team that won gold at the 2017 World Juniors, Lindgren could be in line to play a larger role this time around, both on the blue and leadership. He has experience in the latter. The newly named Gopher assistant captain wore the "C" for the 2016 US U-18 WJC team. Lindgren will be participating in camp after suffering a broken leg late in the season against Michigan State.
Knoepke, who spent the past two seasons with the US National Development program, was a member of the gold medal-winning American U-18 WJC team this past April along with fellow Minnesota incoming freshman Scott Reedy. The 1999-born defenseman, unlike Lindgren and Mittelstadt (both of whom were born in 1998), does have another year of WJC eligibility if he does not make the team.
Mittelstadt is participating in his second consecutive NJEC/Summer Showcase. The Eden Prairie, MN native is be trying to make his first WJC team after, being one of the youngest invitees, ended up among the players cut in camp. Expected to go in the first round in the 2017 NHL Draft, Mittelstadt should have an easier path this time around being a year older and a shallower United States forward corps compared to 2017.
The 2018 World Juniors take place December 26, 2017-January 5th, 2018 in Buffalo, New York.
St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko returns for a second straight year behind the United States bench. His entire 2017 WJC coaching staff, including former Minnesota assistant and new Northern Michigan head coach Grant Potulny, will be back as well.